No, not a solo movie for X-Men‘s teleporting blue mutant Nightcrawler. This dark thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who lost 20 pounds to play the role of the sociopathic lead. But will the dramatic weight loss alongside the dramatic material equal a successful movie?
Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a driven but disturbed young man living in LA. Looking for work he one night stumbles upon a car crash where he sees freelance film crews trying to get shots of the crash to sell to the TV stations. Lou instantly becomes inspired to do the same. But as Lou goes to extreme lengths to get better footage, his actions become increasing dangerous to those around him.
Pulling double duties on this film, Dan Gilroy’s direction and script are fantastic. Whether its Lou interacting in conversation by reciting lines learned from online business school or the frantic camera work as Lou tries to get the best shot of a devastating accident, it all works perfectly to capture the essence of Lou and his disturbed behaviour. Everything feels off about this guy. Because of this Gyllenhaal doesn’t have to resort to what other actors may do and give Lou ticks and quirks to show his abnormalities. It’s creepy enough just watching Lou smile as he tries to flirt (in his mind) with Rene Russo’s news director Nina. Gyllenhaal is mesmerizing as the sociopathic Lou. It’s probably the first time I’ve found Gyllenhaal to be completely repellent in a movie (which is exactly how Lou should be). There is no redeeming qualities to Lou but he is a fascinating character to watch.
Although Gilroy and Gyllenhaal work shines the most in this movie there’s also a great supporting role for Russo. There are some wonderful scenes throughout the movie between Lou and Nina that shows the power changes in their relationship. Both are exploiting crime scenes for their own personal gain and when you think Nina may show outrage at some of the footage Lou brings to her, her only concern is how to get it pass the censors. Bill Paxton, as a fellow ‘nightcrawler’ and Riz Ahmed as Lou’s desperate homeless assistant Rick also get strong moments in the movie as they interact with Lou and try not to get caught in the cross fire of his actions.
It’s hard to find fault with this movie but I will say that, unsurprisingly, it’s not exactly a feel-good movie. There’s hardly any likeable characters, and some viewers may find some of the crime scene footage upsetting (in particular one sequence which sees Lou entering the scene of a home invasion). But if you do want to give it a shot then Nightcrawler may offer you a compelling and thought-provoking look into the dark corners of the media and human behaviour.
Rating 4.5/5 – dark and thrilling with a stand out performance from Jake Gyllenhaal